New York, NY (January 23, 2020)—Hundreds of iHeartMedia employees have apparently fallen victim to artificial intelligence and other technologies, according to reports of significant layoffs at the company, which is the largest radio conglomerate in the U.S.
A company press release stated: “As it enters the new decade, iHeartMedia today announced a new organizational structure for its Markets Group as it modernizes the company to take advantage of the significant investments it has made in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) and its unique scale and leadership position in the audio marketplace.”
Published reports put the number of layoffs close to 850, including over 50 on-air DJs, with one radio industry observer predicting that “employee dislocation” — a euphemism coined in a company memo — will top 1,000. “But the number is relatively small given our overall employee base of 12,500,” according to the memo. The company, which has not commented on the exact number of layoffs, owns and operates more than 850 broadcast radio stations serving over 150 markets nationwide.
Jerry Del Colliano, a professor in the Music Business Program at NYU Steinhardt, quoted in Billboard, suggested that the layoffs were concentrated in markets with populations similar to Las Vegas (600,000-plus) or smaller. That suggests that programming will be handled remotely in certain markets in the future. In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission eliminated the rule that requires AM, FM and TV broadcast stations to maintain a main studio in or near its community of license.
The press release continues, “The new structure will enable the company to maximize the performance of each of its markets — and the company overall — with its unique scale and multiple platforms; leadership in audio; and its expertise in consumers, monetization and data, and enhance iHeartMedia’s position as the number one audio company in America, continue its successful transformation as a technology- and data-powered 21st century media company, and accelerate the development of new platforms and services.”
The statement, claiming a reach of “91% of Americans each month with our broadcast assets alone,” trumpets iHeartMedia’s success in leveraging technology to become #1 in broadcast radio, digital radio, commercial podcasting, in social among audio players and other categories. “The company has made significant technology investments to change everything from how it sells advertising to how it utilizes data and builds new businesses like its digital platform, podcast platform and robust data platform — all of which have given it an undisputed leadership position in the audio world,” according to the press release.
Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, said in a statement, “We are now using our considerable investments in technology to modernize our operations and infrastructure, further setting us apart from traditional media companies; improving our services to our consumers and advertising partners; and enhancing the work environment for our employees.”
iHeartMedia • www.iheartmedia.com